Renaming Mount Sopris, Colorado – John Denver Peak?

Post by blogger | August 13, 2011      

Update: May 20, 2012. No John Denver Peak in Colorado for now. See news report.

Update: August 16, 2011. All it took me was 10 seconds on Google to find that a peak in the Arctic has already been named John Denver Peak! Of course, news reports and NPR never even mentioned this. Well, nice, some climbers named an unnammed peak after one of their favorite singers. But PLEASE, hands off Mount Sopris! (Oh, and by the way, NPR reported on this in a remarkably biased fashion by giving the advocate of renaming most of the time in their report. Slanted media reporting, hardly ever happens, right?)

Update: August 9, 2011. Aspen Times reports that Board of Geographic Names is reluctant to name or re-name features in Federal Wilderness. That alone could put the snuff on this heinous proposal. Nonetheless, write your protest letters to address below.

More here. also read this.

Update: August 2011. I got the following email from the Board of Geographic Names (BGN). Today, Aspen Times reports that the people who want to rename the east summit of Mount Sopris are submitting their proposal. So this issue is still alive — more alive than ever. Following is the email reply I got from BGN when I sent my protest email to them. To protest the naming or renaming of anything on Mount Sopris, please please immediately email the BGN. Following is BGN snail mail and email.

Lou Yost
Executive Secretary
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 523
Reston, Virginia 20192-0523
FAX: (703) 648-4549

You can email them. To prevent your email from getting spam boxed or disregarded, keep it civil with no profanity. Write specifics on the email subject line, and include a couple paragraphs of text in the body. For validity, it’s probably good to include your address and phone number, but apparently not mandatory.

bgnexec at usgs with suffix .gov

Reply Lou received from BGN: Thank you for this recommendation regarding a proposal to change the name Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak or possibly to name one of the mountain’s unnamed peaks. Actually, at this time there is no such proposal either to rename Mount Sopris or to name one of its unnamed peaks. One was submitted in 2009 to change the name of Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak whereupon we asked for clarification and explanation on several matters. No response was ever received, and we have considered the matter closed.

Our information now indicates there is intent to propose that the eastern peak of Mount Sopris be name in honor of John Denver. So, if that proposal is received, the proposal would be to name an unnamed peak on Mount Sopris not to change the name of Mount Sopris. It is possible to name an unnamed peak on a mountain without affecting the name of the mountain in any way; numerous peaks on a mountain of one name can have each peak named with a different name without affecting the official name of the larger mountain. Officially neither the eastern peak nor the western peak are named; the entire feature is Mount Sopris. There is no definitive amount for “saddle drop” nor any required distance apart; only that the feature be discernible to be named.

No name change or name approval will be made under any circumstances or conditions without due process (receipt of another proposal and its approval).

For any proposal (new name for a peak or name change) considered by the Board, local use and acceptance is of primary importance, and so the recommendations of the county, other local jurisdictions, the State Names Authority, historical societies, etc. along with any land management agencies (Federal, State, & local if warranted) are highly considered in the decision-making process as are the opinions of local residents.

Should a proposal be forthcoming, we shall make the Board aware of your recommendation.

Please let us know if you have questions.

Roger L. Payne
For Lou Yost
Executive Secretary,
U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Original blog post below, from July 12, 2011 **************************************************

If someone proposed a different name for the Grand Teton, some of you out there in blogland would probably exercise your constitutional right to buy guns (though in Wyoming, you all are armed to the teeth anyway, right?). Here in Colorado, virtually renaming our signature mountain up above our town of Carbondale, Mount Sopris, could engender similar feelings. Yet amazingly (as in, gad, what is next!?), that exact scenario appears to be happening. Newspaper article.

Mount Sopris, Colorado to be John Denver Peak?

Mount Sopris from the northwest, as viewed from a location near Carbondale, Colorado. Right hand summit is the West Summit, proposed name change is for East Summit to looker's left. While the summits appear to be quite distinct and separate from this angle, from other views they are remarkably similar and close together, thus making it appropriate to just call them both as one peak, Mount Sopris. And most importantly, meaning that trying to rename the east summit would not only be confusing, but tantamount to renaming the whole mountain.

Mount Sopris has twin summits about a half mile apart, both exactly the same USGS height of 12,953 feet. On large scale maps the mountain is shown as one peak labeled “Mount Sopris.” On the finer grain USGS 7.5 min. quad you finally get enough detail to see the west summit is named with vertical angle benchmark (VABM) label “West Sopris,” while the eastern summit has a labeled VABM “Sopris.” Common terminology is to simply call the twin summits “Mount Sopris” and if necessary differentiate by using the terms “east” and “west.”

Apparently, a John Denver fan or group of fans is trying to name a mountain after the late musician, and to that end they’re attempting to rename the Sopris east summit as “John Denver Peak.”

While I’d actually like to see more Colorado mountains carry names instead of only elevations, Mount Sopris is already named, and both summits are named by their benchmarks and common local terminology. Thus, it is inappropriate to confuse the naming of the peak by renaming the east summit. What is more, the petition to rename the mountain is unclear and appears disingenuous.

The petition states the Sopris east summit elevation as 12,965, a height I can not find on any map nor in the USGS Geographic Names System database (though perhaps this is a recent survey number, and if so, non-issue). More, the petition does not acknowledge that the Sopris east summit is already named and carries a benchmark, and also states that the peak is “near Williams Lake where John composed the Colorado state song Rocky Mountain High.” While the referred Williams lake is in the vicinity of Mount Sopris, the lake is four miles away from Sopris as the crow flies, is several drainages removed, and perhaps most importantly you can not see Mount Sopris from Williams Lake. Also, the official state song of Colorado is “Where the Columbines Grow.” “Rocky Mountain High” was added as a “second state song” in 2007 by a state senate resolution which did _not_ codify the song in the Colorado state statutes (thankfully so, as Denver’s song, while good and no doubt now a classic, is also overtly political in several lyrics, and even dabbles in hypocritical nimbyism when he laments “more people…upon the land” after moving to Colorado himself.)

To outline my reasons for opposing this name change:

1. Mount Sopris is already named after a Colorado pioneer but more importantly by long-term traditional use of its name.

2. The summit proposed for re-naming is one of exact twin Mount Sopris summits only about 1/2 mile apart with an approximately 300 foot saddle drop between the high-points. Such a minimal saddle drop does little to create substantially differentiated summits suitable for separate names. Indeed, a 300 foot drop is usually considered to be the marginal minimum when it comes to having nearby summits carry separate names.

3. Residents of the Mount Sopris area have for years referred to the twin summits as “Mount Sopris,” and when necessary simply clarified with “east summit,” or “west summit.”

4. When people hike Mount Sopris, they have for years commonly gone to the east summit, and have always called that summit “Mount Sopris.” The east summit is the one proposed for renaming.

While I’m not a fan of re-naming the Mount Sopris east summit, I like John Denver and some of his music (you have to admit that however over-the-top, Rocky Mountain High is quite the anthem), so here is another idea. Just above Williams Lake is a beautiful unnamed summit 12,176, which since you can’t see Mount Sopris from Williams Lake is probably what Denver was looking at (along with the Perseid Meteor Shower) when he began the process of writing his famous song. I’d ask the individuals involved in this effort to withdraw their effort to rename the east peak of Mount Sopris, and re-submit their goal as a naming of Point 12,176 above Williams Lake to “John Denver Peak.” That would be nicely appropriate and probably fine with the majority of locals in the area.

(Note: I’m involved in a peak naming effort regarding the Mount Raoul, which is more informal but does involve a summit with a nice defined 400 foot saddle drop and no official or commonly used name.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


55 Responses to “Renaming Mount Sopris, Colorado – John Denver Peak?”

  1. brian h July 11th, 2011 2:59 pm

    I saw the twitter feed to the Aspen news article. I grew up hearing J.D.’s music (my little brother was a fan (?), while I was listening to Kiss and Cheap Trick). BUT- I’d say Lou’s take on this is the better one. I’m sure no local worthy of the name would ever stop calling it Sopris. The only renaming I’ve ever really liked was Denali. And that wasn’t renaming after all.

  2. Lou July 11th, 2011 3:05 pm

    Brian, yeah, they really should cut bait and just go for a naming of that unnamed peak I mention at end of article. I’d support that, though it might be years before I get around to renaming on all my maps, guidebooks, blog posts, and whatnot. The thing these name changers don’t seem to get is that they create a lot of confusion and a lot of work when they change the name of something that already has an existing name, in this cast “Mount Sopris, east summit.” If you pick a peak without a name and try to get it named, much more appropriate.

  3. Jared Hargrave July 11th, 2011 3:17 pm

    This is a terrible idea. Mount Sporis is my childhood mountain. It’s the first peak I ever summited, the first I ever skied down, and my first backcountry ski experience thanks to Andre Willie (my high school science teacher and Raoul’s brother.)

    Changing the name would change not only the valley’s identity, but also people’s personal histories.

    I also much prefer giving an unnamed peak the John Denver moniker.

    Thankfully, I think changing Sopris’ name is highly unlikely to succeed anyway.

  4. Joe July 11th, 2011 5:34 pm

    Lou, I am all for the unnamed peak of summit 12,176. The branding is all there “76” “John Denver” “Rocky Mountains” what else do you need? I can see the t-shirts now…

    Love the proposal and most certainly hoping the petitioners re-submit.

  5. Bob Cross July 11th, 2011 7:48 pm

    I don’t know who Sopris was but is it possible that his contribution was more significant than another Texan inspired by Colorado’s beauty?

  6. Mark July 11th, 2011 8:59 pm

    I agree that peak 12,176 should be named John Denver Mountain rather than Mount Sopris, which should be renamed Mount Andre the Giant. Because Andre could drink more beer than any other man, and I believe if mountains drank beer, then Sopris could drink more beer than any other mountain.

  7. chase harrison July 11th, 2011 9:17 pm

    Those people on the front range don’t have a CLUE!!!!!!!!!!

  8. brian h July 11th, 2011 9:19 pm

    Mark, I’d like some confirmation on the whole Andre the Giant beer drinking thing. In Nordegg, Alberta I once saw a guy everyone called “dirty Swede” drink a keg of Labatts in something like 45 minutes…

  9. Peter R July 11th, 2011 9:40 pm

    The same scenario happened in Canada when a peak was wanted to be name after a past Prime Minister, Perrier Trudeau, and arguments ensued. The best offering, in my opinion, was the middle peak of a range. It’s unofficial name was “Middle Finger”. This harks back to when Trudeau flipped someone the “bird” and said” F” you. It was later de-graded to a wave of the hand and saying “Fuddle Duck”.

    What a great leader and role mode he was.

    Peter R

  10. Mark W July 11th, 2011 10:29 pm

    I agree that the unnamed peak would be a better option, and a fine tribute to John Denver. Naming an unnamed peak is enough of an arduous process. Doing so to rename a peak that already carries a commonly-recognized moniker would be even more difficult (and unlikely to ultimately succeed.)

  11. Mark July 11th, 2011 10:33 pm

    The lyric “more people, more scars upon the land…” caught my attention tonight–before reading this post. My son, who is two years old, really likes that song, so we’ve been playing a youtube video of it to him. I thought that lyric was pointing fingers a bit too much at everyone else moving in to Colorado.

  12. mtnrunner2 July 12th, 2011 12:33 am

    I think John was a sincere guy who loved the mountains and I can appreciate that, but what about all the people who will have to rename their dog?

  13. Glenn Sliva July 12th, 2011 1:23 am

    I think naming peaks after Famous people is like naming streets after them. Instead we should rename whole towns. How about instead of Denver we call it John Denver or something.

  14. Mark July 12th, 2011 6:51 am
  15. Mark July 12th, 2011 6:58 am

    I think that given that almost the entire body of American environmental law was less than a decade old in the early seventies, Denver deserves a pass for inserting a perhaps facile environmental ethic in the song. People were genuinely concerned about the pace of recreation development in those days, there were few legal obstacles, and the lyric after all followed in the tradition of songs like “paradise” (which Denver also covered).

  16. Lou July 12th, 2011 7:40 am

    Mark, I’d agree. My main point was that making a big deal in the petition out of “Rocky Mtn High” being a “state song” was to me a bit overblown. Presently, calling for fewer people to settle in Colorado could even be considered bigoted or racist, as the bulk of our population increase is from latinos seeking a better life then is available the incredibly messed up countries they come from. Thus, it would seem to me that any song made in to a “state song” would be best to leave that kind of stuff entirely alone.

    BUT: Even the original and still legally designated state song “Where the Columbines Grow” has some disingenuous environmental stuff in it, such as a line about how the “deer have fled the canyons,” when in reality there are deer all over the place in our canyons. The song’s lines about no wolves or bison are accurate, however, though still whiny and negative in my opinion.

  17. Tom July 12th, 2011 7:49 am

    I think renaming the peak 12,176, John Denver Peak is a great idea. I was born and raised in Ohio and remember watching John Denver specials and listening to Rocky Mountain High as a pre-teen and deciding then, that I would live in the mountains of Colorado. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the line that they would have to tear down more mountains to make room for me. I still enjoy Johns music, it brings back fond memories and I am enjoying life in Colorado.more than I ever dreamed I would. John Denver deserves to be remembered, but I would leave Mt. Sopris out of it.

  18. brian h July 12th, 2011 8:04 am

    Mark- I tap out. Long live Andre. The man took it to another level. I vaguely remember the Swede thing was a bet over a particularly cherry Evenrude sled. Kinda a one shot deal. And Lou, end of tangent.

  19. Lou July 12th, 2011 8:06 am

    Tom, along with the general point of being anti population increase, the song’s environmental stuff apparently refers to a proposal to have the winter Olympics in Colorado. At the time, I vaguely recall that the more fanatical preservationists felt that the Winter Olympics were akin to some kind of environmental catastrophe. Really a pretty lame point of view, but popular at the time amongst the nimby set and did result in us having a vote and becoming the only state to ever turn down an Olympic games.

    Shoot, if we’d had the Winter Olympics, perhaps Eisenhower would now have enough lanes to handle our traffic safely and correctly…

    For those of you curious about the only state to ever turn down a Winter Olympics, check out this super interesting article:

  20. Matt Kinney July 12th, 2011 9:47 am

    If you were an ultra-conservative Republican US Senator who recently died, the USGS along with some pushing from powerful pals can get peak in a National Park and a major Chugach Icefield named after you within 6 months of your passing.

    It makes no difference that he spent his life fighting against public lands, calling National Parks “greenie farms” and illegal. He was the poster boy for extremism in regard to land uses, along with his shmoozing life with the oil and gas industry.

    That is what happened with Alaska’s Ted Stevens. In less than 6 months after his death last summer, h e was the perhaps the fastest American to have a US peak officially named after him in USGS modern history. It is obviously a political process this naming stuff. I was shocked at how fast the process was bent and folded for the smooth and quick naming of Steven Peak next to Denali. Then the USGS scratched the Native name of the Tazlina Icefield in the Chugach, just barely north of Valdez, to the “Stevens Icefield. It was a done deal before I even had a chance to comment. No comment/appeals were allowed at all it seemed.

    By law, a 5 year waiting period is required for application involving a deceased individual. I know this because I have worked applications to the USGS on some local names around Valdez. “Mr Kinney, you must wait 5 years, no exceptions, not even for rural doctors. ” 🙄

    I support naming something after Stevens in 5 years, once we are sure he does not have some serious skeletons in his closet. If at that time folks are still into Stevens, then by all means apply properly like the rest of us commoners in the US, no exceptions.

    John Denver has been vetted and is an honorable American icon and deserves some peak in CO. Perhaps the supporters want a more “visible” peak everyone can see from a roadside pullout with a metal map in front of them. That may be the singular issue. The supporter do not want to name some remote CO peak that no on can see and I can’t blame them.

  21. Lou July 12th, 2011 9:56 am

    Matt, good point on visibility of the peak to be named. In that case, we have a ton of other ones around here that can be seen from roads but only have elevations as names. Renaming or messing around with existing names in other ways should be mostly off the table, in my opinion.

    Actually pretty funny that Stevens called National Parks “greenie farms.” He was pretty off the mark, would have been much more accurate to call them “human development and recreation attractants” (grin).

  22. Karl July 12th, 2011 8:18 pm

    I just found out about this renaming thing today and am in disbelief it would even be proposed. Mount Sopris is the jewel landmark of the Carbondale area and I understand someone from Denver is proposing to have it renamed. As a Carbondale local, I strongly oppose this spurious move, especially from someone who doesn’t even live in the area. I agree with some of the previous comments that there are a number of prominent unnamed mountains which would be happy have a name assigned to them.
    It’s sacrilege, pure and simple, no disrespect to John Denver…but give me a break. It would be extremely upsetting to see this name change take place.

  23. Lou July 13th, 2011 6:03 am

    To be clear, the Sopris east and west summits, same height and 1/2 mile apart, comprise “Mount Sopris.” As near as I can tell, they want to name/rename that east summit “John Denver Peak” while the west summit would remain “Mount Sopris.” As stated in my blog post, I believe doing this is wrong, confusing, goes against local tradition, and is in a word bogus. Glad all you guys agree.

    One big thing that I probably should have emphasized more in my post is that the east summit is the one most often climbed, hiked, skied, etc. Thus, nearly everyone going up there in summer or winter would be summiting “John Denver” Peak if this name change was done.

    There is actually a third, lower summit of Mount Sopris, unnamed, that’s over to the east and is used quite often in the winter while also passed over by the official summer trail. At first I thought that was the one they were proposing the name for, which would have been ok. But it’s fairly nondescript which is why I didn’t suggest it.

  24. Lou July 13th, 2011 11:47 am

    I should add, for anyone who’s thinking this is a good idea, that John Denver himself would not have wanted his name to even come close to taking the place of any names already in use for a mountain. He was very sensitive to the feelings of locals, though he sometimes was insulated enough from such to blow it, like the time he installed his bulk gasoline tanks during the gas crisis and made everyone think he was hoarding gasoline. I met him a few times, briefly, and knew many of his best friends and employees. He was definitely a nice, well meaning person.

    Those wanting to name a mountain after John Denver have the right to try. I’d only caution that 1., don’t do it simply because you fell under the spell of a creative person with money, 2., name something that definitely has no existing name, 3., stay away from Mount Sopris.

  25. susan tucker July 15th, 2011 1:07 pm

    I’m glad to see so much opposititon to this preposterous proposal As a CO native, I protest the naming of any part of Colorado (especially part of Mt. Sopris) after him. I recall when John Denver (not his real name) moved to Colorado, wrote songs about it that attracted lots more people, then was said to have thought about or said that we needed to build a gate around it to keep out anyone else. And he nearly installed reserve gas tanks in his yard during the ’70’s gas shortages so that he’d be sure to have fuel when others were waiting in gas lines that went around the block and learning about conservation. The tanks were not installed, after the controversy that they caused. I also opposed naming “Rocky Mt. High” as a second CO State Song. It may cause fond memories in many who during that era were also experiencing there own “highs” no matter where in the country they lived-but I don’t think it’s appropriate to reference that kind of high in the state song.

  26. Kidd July 17th, 2011 8:51 am

    Bob Cross, Henry John Deutschendorf, was born in Roswell, New Mexico. He’s not from Ohio, or New Jersey, or New York, or Texas for that matter, he was a military brat and therefore lived all over the USA, including Arizona, California, Alabama etc..
    I knew John farily well, stayed at his Woods lake cabin a few times, worked for his ex-wife a few times. He was a great guy, and I believe he would not want a Sopris name change How do we create a petition to stop the name change, or at least change the peak location?

  27. Lou July 17th, 2011 9:01 am

    All, to stop this Sopris naming attempt, just write a letter with a very emphatic NO to the person and address below. Be very clear you are writing about the naming of Mount Sopris as John Denver Peak, and be very EMPHATIC you are against it. Keep it short and to the point.

    Lou Yost
    Executive Secretary
    U.S. Board on Geographic Names
    U.S. Geological Survey
    12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 523
    Reston, Virginia 20192-0523
    Phone: (703) 648-4552
    FAX: (703) 648-4549
    ‘tronic mail BGNEXEC at usgs with suffix gov

  28. Hunter August 2nd, 2011 9:12 pm

    As a Native Coloradoan I sure as heck do not want to name a mountain after the one person who helped bring all these people here!

    JD was a great musician who sang songs that helped ruined Colorado. I’m sorry, he was a nice guy. That’s it!

    John Düsseldorf alis John Denver was a TEXAN who went to Arlington Heights HS in Ft Worth, Texas!

    *Any real Coloradoan knows how we feel about Texans, we sure as heck don’t name mountains after Texans!!!

    No Mountain, No Cigar Tex!

  29. Lou August 3rd, 2011 5:16 am

    Thanks for the comment Hunter!

  30. Lou August 3rd, 2011 6:01 am

    Everyone, according to Aspen Times today, the folks trying to rename the peak are submitting their application.

    I updated post above with response I got to protest email I sent a few weeks ago.

    Since they are actually going through with the proposal, I beg all of you to write your protest to the Board of Geographic Names.

  31. Lou August 3rd, 2011 6:46 am

    I’d add that the Aspen Times came out with an anonymous editorial in favor of the renaming. In the editorial, they take a snide and elitist voice and write “It’s difficult to understand why some people are irked over an effort to name the eastern peak of Mount Sopris after John Denver.”

    While we like a lot of things about Aspen, that type of clueless holier-than-thou opinion is one of the things about the town that irks the vast majority of locals who don’t live there — but do live in view of Mount Sopris.

    At any rate, the Times editorial shows their position and bias. Subsequent articles about the name change reflect that bias. Sad.

    You can read the weird editorial here:

    By the way, much of the favorable writing about John Denver mentions the Windstar land near here, a ranch bought with Denver’s money some time ago. The place is just a fallow ranch that’s actually no different or perhaps even worse ecologically than any of the nearby well-managed ranches. Such B.S.

  32. brian h August 3rd, 2011 7:52 am

    I was talking about all this to my folks the other evening. My family came out to Colorado because my dad got a good job offer. This was in 1977 when the country was in another recession and Colorado seemed like the land of opportunity like it does every other decade. While talking to Mom and Dad, I expressed doubt that anyone came out here just because they heard ‘Rocky Mountain High’. But my Mom said she knew of at least two people that told her THAT song brought them here. She said the same thing happened in San Francisco with that (lame) song about “flowers in your hair”. By the way, Mom and Dad are decidedly in the ‘leave it alone’ camp.

  33. Lou August 3rd, 2011 8:20 am

    Yeah, while I do respect Denver’s success and some of his music, it is simply ludicrous to view him as some sort of environmental icon. He was just a rich guy who spread his money around and sung some songs about how beautiful the natural world is. And for him to sing about too many people here, while promoting the state, was the height of hypocrisy.

    I should add that hypocrisy is part and parcel to the human condition. Few of us are immune. But when that hypocrisy affects other people, as in this dumb mountain renaming, then it should be called out.

    Slagging John Denver, however, is not the way to stop this renaming or naming effort. Sounds like one of the main things they listen to is local opinon. So write those letters and emails. Make three things clear in your letter.

    1.You are AGAINST calling anything on Mount Sopris as John Denver Peak.

    2. Make it clear that the two summits of Mount Sopris are BOTH known as Mount Sopris and marked on maps as such. East and west terminology is used if necessary.

    3. Make it clear that when Mount Sopris is climbed and hiked, it is usually the EAST summit that is reached and this is always called “Mount Sopris.” This is the same summit that they are proposing to name “John Denver Pk.,” so it is thus a rename in that sense as well.

  34. Curt August 3rd, 2011 3:28 pm

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard of naming Mt. Sopris John Denver Peak. Take the name away from the mountain for the man who explored this area back when traveling was difficult. Leave the name the way it is. This is the problem with Liberals and green freaks they are always trying to impose their views on us, that is why this country is in the shape it’s in. The guy has a rock in Aspen for him with lyric inscriptions is that not enough. Enough already.

  35. Hunter August 3rd, 2011 4:02 pm


    Please everyone: Hit your FaceBook Page now!

    Let the world know what is happening here, how can we stand by and let a Fan Club ReName our mountains?

    Where does this end Mount ZZ Top or The Four Tops, come on…………. I suppose some may want commercial names too! How about Mt Audi or the Range Rover Valley, how about Mount Big Mac?

    I’m Mad, Hit your FaceBooks people!!!


  36. Bob Cross August 3rd, 2011 4:52 pm

    I haven’t been able to get a clear picture of whom Mt. Sopris is named for but assume it is either Captain Sopris, born Jun3 1813 and died April 7, 1893. He served as sheriff, Mayor of Denver, Park Commissioner and was President of the Colorado Agricultural Society, one of the movers behind the Denver and Colorado Rio Grande railway, a man of reputed integrity…….. or maybe one of his 8 sons, a General Elridge B. Sopris who served with Colorado military units in the 1860’s and became a businessman in Trinidad. Regardless, the name Sopris was chosen to honor a Colorado pioneer who served the people of Colorado with dignity.

  37. Scott August 3rd, 2011 6:48 pm

    Yep. Captain Richard Sopris. And, he was NOT a native coloradan, OMG…. See here for details:

    Also one of Lou’s books tells the story as well, this one:

    Sounds like Sopris had quite the adventurous life. Lou made the comment in the above book, p. 55, “it was men such as Richard Sopris who laid the foundation for our North American mountaineering heritage,” probably since it was Sopris that helped first map the state of Colorado which probably resulted from Sopris’ exploration of this great state. Sounds like a good reason to leave Mt. Sopris named just the way it is.

  38. Lou August 3rd, 2011 10:55 pm

    Scott, thanks. I think there is some info in the Wild Snow book as well. I don’t have a copy here, but that’s my recollection. I’ll pull that out and share when I get home, unless someone beats me to it (grin).

  39. Dorsey August 6th, 2011 5:06 pm

    Lou, thanks for the link to “land where the columbines grow.” I sang it in grade school and never knew they only taught us the chorus. interesting lyrics.

    I heard John sing RMH the first time, midnight to 5 am concert at the wheeler (he came on early, had a cold from camping). I agree re. naming someplace else after him, and then naming other peaks after women or after a specific trait of that peak.

  40. Lou August 6th, 2011 8:07 pm

    Perhaps we need an Annie Denver Peak more than we need a John Denver Peak. I’m sure her support while they were married had a lot to do with his success, though that union eventually went south and rumor has it that Denver cut his incredibly pricey custom kitchen cabinets or perhaps just the kitchen table in half with a chain saw so she could have her share. Was an amusing rumor at the time but now kind of sad.

  41. Cathy August 8th, 2011 11:51 pm

    I grew up at the base of Sopris 42 years ago (at 6 months old my parents moved from Denver to Carbondale) and my family and I all LOVE that amazing twin peaked mountain. We’ve all since moved away from the area, although most still in Colorado, I would be sad to see the name change. East/West…it is all a part of Sopris to me. It is where we hiked, camped and lived. I can imagine how many of the people who have lived (and live there now) must feel about the idea of changing the name. To me the twin Peaks of Sopris are already named. Others have said there are plenty of unnamed mountains in the state so if they feel so strongly about naming a mountain after John Denver I’d prefer they name one of them.

    Many people have fallen in love with Mount Sopris as they’ve driven by or grown up under it. I would recommend those wishing to change the name, live by it. Experience the environment, the wonder of the mountain, the warmth of the community and then tell me after years of calling it Sopris if they’d want to change it. Do you really think John Denver would want to change it? He called it Sopris for years, too…..

  42. annie parker August 11th, 2011 7:16 pm

    John Denver is not worthy enough to have our precious Mount Sopris or in fact anything else named after him. He was a drunk, a druggie and let Aspen down when due to perform at a hospital benefit many years ago.

  43. Adam August 11th, 2011 9:55 pm
  44. Lou August 11th, 2011 9:59 pm

    Thanks Adam! We needed an anti renaming petition. Don’t you hate the way folks come up with this stuff out of the blue then we have to react to it? Gets tiresome….

  45. Adam August 12th, 2011 8:55 am

    Lou, I do think it’s a rather silly idea, especially the way they’ve gone about trying to get this approved with a petition and everything. I’m willing to bet that 99% of the people that signed the petition for the renaming of the sub peak have really no vested interest in the area or have even been/or seen Mt. Sopris. If anything there should have been some kind of poll or open forum on the idea with the locals living in the area itself (glenwood springs/carbondale/basalt/aspen).

  46. Gregg Cronn August 15th, 2011 6:28 pm

    Heard you on NPR this afternoon. They should have given you more time. Good luck with this one.

  47. Lou August 15th, 2011 10:33 pm

    Thanks Gregg, I didn’t hear it and didn’t feel like I gave the guy a very good interview on this one, but I hope what they quoted at least helped. Aspen Times newspaper is super biased in favor of re-naming the peak (they worship celebs up in Aspen so no surprise), so that’s not helping. Lou

  48. Lou August 16th, 2011 8:11 am

    Well, I listened to the report (you can find it on NPR, Fresh Air for August 15. Biased by giving the advocate nearly all the air time. Disappointing.

  49. Tim M. August 16th, 2011 2:10 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Seems to me the “controversy” has been mis-framed in media reports. It’s not about being pro or con John Denver (and whatever and all he may represent to people), rather the locale of choice for the re-naming.

    In the NPR story, the renaming ringleader says the east peak of Sopris is “unnamed.” While this may be true strictly speaking, it has a name in common parlance and perspective, and to me that’s the crux of the issue. I’m fine with a peak named for JD… just not that one.

    As for the bias of the media, the culprit may be laziness rather than strategic boosterism. And Lou, I’m sure the local papers would be open to running a guest editorial on the matter should someone such as yourself actually approach them with the idea directly.

    best, tim

  50. 5th_gen_native August 19th, 2011 4:25 pm

    Truly appalling. John Denver wasn’t born and raised in Colorado (at best, he was a part time recreational resident), …and it was through his music, he initiated the first wave of the great Californication of Colorado.

    People claim he was a humanitarian and activist when in fact he was the ultimate hypocrite. Surely you didn’t forget the oil and gas embargo and how Mr. Henry John Deutschendorf (aka John Denver) was caught hording massive quantities of gasoline at his Aspen property, or his continual escapades of always getting caught driving drunk or stoned.

    …so, what did he do exactly for Colorado, besides sing Rock Mt. High?

  51. Lou August 19th, 2011 5:42 pm

    5th Gen, be sure to sign the anti petition.

    Tim, thanks for chiming in, the fact that Aspen Times official (anonymous) editorial was written in favor of the naming counts for something (and was probably the result of Aspen’s never ending love affair with any celebrity). As for guest editorials I’ll keep it here, it gets read plenty.

    As for what’s named and unnamed, both peaks of Sopris have brass USGS benchmarks, both with the name “Sopris” on them. And there is a John Denver Peak in the Arctic, so it’s already been done.

    And yes, agree, I’d be fine as well with another peak named after JD. In fact, there is a really nice one he could actually see when he was at Williams Lake getting inspired to write his song (you can’t see Sopris from Williams Lake.)

  52. Lou May 20th, 2012 4:56 am

    Looks like we won’t have a John Denver peak in Colorado, for now anyway. Too bad this proposal wasn’t better thought out, for a different unnamed peak, as I suggest in this blog post.

  53. Doris Downey July 20th, 2012 8:10 am

    Lou, after hiking up Sopris this week, we wondered if the elevation, 12,953, had been adjusted upward as had many of the 14er’s? Wikipedia has 12,965 obviously wrong and probably taken from the petition.

  54. Lou Dawson July 20th, 2012 8:46 am

    Hi Doris, I’d not heard about any adjustment of the official USGS elevation. Lou

  55. Scott Nelson July 20th, 2012 6:13 pm

    Funny, my Garmin gps watch showed 12,964 feet on E. Sopris summit…. It always seems to vary a bit. It felt like an extra 11 feet of vert though….

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